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Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha is a small island off the northeast coast of Brazil.  Renown for it's scuba diving and snorkeling, white sand beaches, and crystal clear water, Brazilians simply refer to it as "paradise".  A national marine reserve park, you are required to pay a conservation tax upon entering the island, and no more than 400 visitors can visit the island at a time.  Home to 2,000 permanent residents, the island can be driven from end to end in about ten minutes.  We visited there in November of 2005, during our visit to Brazil.   You can read our trip report, see our photo gallery, or view our Fernando de Noronha Directory to get some ideas of service providers on the island.

Fernando de Noronha Airport


Varig flies daily into Fernando de Noronha Airport from Recife.  Trip also flies daily from Recife, as well as from Natal.  If you're staying in Brazil, you can purchase a Brazil Airpass for about $400 per person that allows you to fly between up to four Brazilian cities.  A visa is required for U.S. Citizens entering Brazil.

Fernando de Noronha Airport


Upon arrival, you'll be let out on the tarmac of the single airstrip, and walk into the tiny airport.  You'll stand in line to pay for your conservation tax ($33.09 BR per person per day), then you'll be cleared for baggage claim.  It's about a ten step walk from one end of the airport to the other - you can't get lost.  Once you've paid your tax and claimed your luggage, you'll see all the taxi drivers and transfer providers standing with signs with names on them.

Nortax - Fernando de Noronha Taxi


Most airport transfers are pre-arranged.  You can book them through one of the reservations sites shown in our directory.  You can also catch a taxi at the airport - a taxi usually amounts to a dune buggy, though, so if you have a lot of bags make sure to pre-reserve a larger shuttle with room for luggage.  Taxi rates are BR$15 to anywhere on the island.

A Pousada in Fernando de Noronha


There are no resorts on the island.  There is one hotel - the Dolphin Hotel.  All other accommodations are Pousadas (state run inns) usually with about five rooms or so.  We stayed at the Pousada da Morena, a family run pousada with four rooms and one separate apartment.  There are many, many pousadas on the island to choose from, and most are pretty spendy for this type of accommodation.  Most also have a restaurant that will at least provide you with breakfast.  Your pousada desk clerk will likely not speak English.

Dune Buggy in Fernando de Noronha


The primary form of transportation on the island is by dune buggy.  You can rent these at many different locations on the island for around $100BR per day (about $50USD).  Make sure to give it a good once-over before agreeing - we rented one that was a total pile of junk - a total rip-off.  There is also a taxi company and a bus that runs from end to end along the paved highway.  It costs $2.85BR to ride.  You can also rent mopeds and bikes on the island.



There are many restaurants on the island - most not up to Western resort ideals, but they are locally run family businesses, often in their own homes.  There are many restaurants on the beaches - most at the end of some perilous rocky dirt road - our personal favorites.  There are a few more touristy establishments by the Marina, and each Pousada often hosts one.  There isn't really a "town square" with lots going on - the restaurants are pretty scattered around the island.  The people at the restaurant will almost assuredly speak little or no English, so bring your phrasebook and study key phrases.

Fernando de Noronha


The island is rocky with red soil, with the primary vegetation being scrub.  We compare it to Lanai or the dry side of Molokai in Hawaii.  There are few palm trees to complement the fabulous beaches.  It's quite a contrast to one moment be on a beach in paradise, then a few steps later be roaring in a dune buggy down a rocky, red dirt path through scrub.

Beaches of Noronha


The beaches are made of sparkling white sand, the water a crystal clear aquamarine, much like that you find in the Bahamas or the Caribbean Sea.  They are relatively free of people, and are plentiful.  Some offer great surfing, others incredible snorkeling.  Many have restaurants and/or bars on the beach.  The water temperature is bathtub warm most of the year.

Scuba Diving in Fernando de Noronha


The scuba diving here is among the best in South America.  Dolphins, Rays, Sharks, and thousands of tropical fish fill the seas of the marine preserve.  The water is warm, even at depth.  We dove in 3mm shorty wetsuits, though by the end of the second dive, we were a little cold. 

Fernando de Noronha Snorkeling


Amazing snorkeling at beaches like Turtle Bay (Sueste Beach), where you can swim hundreds of yards from shore and still be no more than three feet deep.  You can spot sea turtles, huge schools of tropical fish, and even sharks if you're lucky.  I ran into an 8-foot shark in water less than knee deep.  There is snorkeling all over the rocky shores of the island.

Local Restaurant


99% of the tourists we saw in Fernando de Noronha were Brazilian.  We did run into a couple from London, a couple from Norway, and one guy from Sweden, though.  English is very rare on the island - almost nobody speaks anything but Portuguese, so be prepared with your phrasebook.  We did find an English-speaker at the dive shop and our divemaster spoke English as well.  That was about it - and we met a lot of people while we were there.

Activities & Tours


There aren't a whole lot of packaged tour choices available - there are a couple of boat tours around the island, a LocSub tour where you're pulled behind a boat with scuba gear on, horseback riding, a walking tour, and a few island tours.  That's about it.  There are also sportfishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling tours. Don't bother reserving online - we did and it was a pain - no times were set, we had to call the tour operator when we got there.  When we did finally get a hold of them, they didn't speak English, so we just cancelled our tours and went scuba diving.  The diving did work out well to reserve in advance - that's what most people who visit the island want to do.

Internet Cafe


There is one gas station on the island (about $8.00 per gallon for gas at the time of this writing), located near the marina.  The Marina is at the North end of the island.  There is a Bank downtown by the church and the Atlantis Dive Shop, and an ATM at the airport. There is one supermarket and a couple of small convenience stores.  There are internet kiosks at many of the restaurants and one internet cafe in town.  The Pousadas often have wireless internet networks if you bring your own laptop with a wireless card.  There is a tourist information booth at the port.

Fernando de Noronha Sightseeing


In addition to the beaches, of particular interest are Sueste Bay (Turtle Bay), a national protected area for sea turtle breeding, where you can see them breeding from December through June, as well as snorkel with them the rest of the year.  Dolphin Cove is where resident pods of spinner dolphins make their home year-round.  You can often see them from the lookout above the water.  There are also boat tours that take you there to see them.  There are several old historic fort sites that line the island - the best is probably Forte dos Remedios.  Most of the tourist attractions have signs written only in Portuguese, so that detracts a little from knowing what you're seeing.  That's where an Island Tour can come in handy.

Banco Real - Fernando de Noronha


While there are several stores on the island, most are merely convenience stores, or sell a few local souvenirs.  Shopping is limited, and expensive, so if you're a big shopper, don't expect much.  Cash is king on Fernando de Noronha, though Visa is accepted at many places.  MasterCard is not widely accepted here, but is accepted at some places.  Forget about American Express, Discover, and Diner's Club. There is an ATM at the airport, so use your debit card to take out Brazilian Reais as soon as you arrive.  There is also Banco Real, right in the middle of town, but it's always packed, so it's easier to do it at the airport.  As of the time of writing, the exchange rate was $1 USD = $1.665 Brazilian Reais, or 2.6 BR to a Euro.



A 10% Tip is usually included in your bill at restaurants.  Scout out that night's restaurant during the day - you can't wander around at night and expect to find very many places to eat - they are often hard to find and pretty spread out.  The voltage on the island is 220V, though there are some Pousadas that also add 110V plugs - make sure you ask when booking.  There are no 3-prong outlets, so bring your adapters.  The telephone jacks appear to be just like those in the states.  The water is solar heated and is in short supply, so be prepared to conserve. Bring your own clock and travel iron and don't expect any English-speaking television programs.  It's worth it to rent a buggy on the island, though there are taxis and a bus available.  Make sure to pick up an island map at the airport, and to visit the tourist information booth.  Bring your phrasebook - almost nobody speaks English, so you'll need all the help you can get.

Sandra & Johann at Fernando de Noronha


Fernando de Noronha was a great experience for us - we got to learn some Portuguese (by necessity), had some good, if not great, scuba dives, did some excellent snorkeling, ate at some cozy restaurants, and met some nice people.  We didn't like the island's scrub-covered landscape, but the beaches made up for it.  The dune buggies were fun too.  If we had it to do over again, we'd just not reserve our tours in advance, unless there becomes a good online booking website where you can get confirmed before you go, and learn more Portuguese before we came.  We'd also spend more time snorkeling and on the beach.  I don't know if we can say it's really paradise, but it is a great place to spend a few days of relaxation, beautiful beaches and scuba diving, especially if you're already in Brazil.   See our Trip Report for details!

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